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How to lose weight before it's too late

Obesity Infograph

Obesity Infograph

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- It's no secret American society struggles with obesity, more so than many other countries.

As a matter of fact, the National Institute of Health reported about two-thirds of U.S. adults older than 20 are overweight or obese. That's 66 percent of 133.6 million people.

Additionally, the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that obesity prevalence in the United States has doubled among adults between 1980 and 2004.

Obesity isn't just a weight problem. It also increases the risk of other health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Not all weight-related risks start with genetics. Among the most prominent factors are lifestyle habits, and some adults who are overweight weren't always struggling with unwanted heaviness.

For most people, starting healthy living habits early on is one of the best ways to keep from becoming obese. Already facing a weight-related problem? It's never too late to begin making some changes.

Staying healthy
Surgery isn't ideal, but rather just one option. Therefore, first learn about making healthy choices. For example, the word "diet" encompasses everything a person eats, not just a specific plan to lose weight. Diet isn't just about what goes in, but how much goes in. Proper portioning is very important to healthy eating and shedding those pounds.

Here are some other healthy living tips (and remember to always check with the doctor before making any drastic changes):

· Work that body. Exercise, exercise, and exercise. Don't overdo it of course - but the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends fitting in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.
· Visit the pyramid. The food pyramid, that is. The USDA updated the Food Pyramid to the new MyPyramid a few years ago to include grains, vegetables, fruits, oils, meat and beans, and milk. Check it out at
· Stay natural. Basically, cut out the fast food runs, the binge drinking, and the frozen meals every night. Concentrate on whole, more natural produce foods, such as whole grain breads, lean meats, and fresh fruits and veggies.
· Know the doc. In a time like this, a primary care manager can be a man or woman's best friend. A doctor will know his or her patient's situation and how to form an individualized healthy living plan. In addition, consulting with a registered dietician to help form that plan can be extremely helpful.

Facing surgery
However, if new life choices don't do the trick, TRICARE added laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding - otherwise known as lap band - as a proven medical technology. Under TRICARE, effective Feb 1, 2007, lap band is covered for individuals that meet certain TRICARE criteria associated with weight-related high morbidity conditions. The TRICARE policy manual defines morbid obesity as body weight more than 100 pounds heavier than ideal weight for one's height and bone structure, or body weight twice one's ideal weight.

In addition, this weight is in association with severe medical conditions known to have higher mortality rates. Anyone considering lap band should talk to his or her primary care manager first about all other options. Preauthorization is required by TRICARE for lap band procedures.

What is lap band?
If surgery does become the only choice, the American Medical Association's (AMA) Web site defines lap band as restrictive bariatric surgery, meaning it will limit the amount of food the stomach can hold and therefore slow the rate of food passage. Unlike previous devices, the lap band's diameter is adjustable by a connection to a reservoir implanted under the skin. Doctors will inject or remove saline from the reservoir to change the size of the gastric opening.

Healthy living isn't just about actions, it's about outlook. For more information on exercise and healthy living habits, visit TriWest Healthcare Alliance's Healthy Living Portal under the "beneficiary" section of